Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Google Reader death proves it: Free services don't last forever

This summer, July 1 to be precise, the Google Reader RSS service will vanish. Google is eliminating it, citing a declining user base. That is bad news for fans of the RSS service. But it’s also a learning point: Consumers need to understand that any one of their most favorite cloud-based services can cease to exist. Don’t expect Google Reader to be the last one to do so.

An ever-changing cloud

The cloud is a great service. It allows us to access programs without needing to store them on our computers. However the cloud also isn’t all that permanent. Writing for Slate, Farhad Manjoo says that the demise of Google Reader should provide a lesson to all computer users on the web: Nothing in the cloud is forever. When Google introduced Reader in 2005, it marketed the service as one that would be around forever. Obviously, it won’t be. And that’s a lesson that consumers need to keep in mind: Nothing in the cloud is certain.

When it’s gone it's gone

This can be considered a downside to the cloud. In the days when software came on discs and we downloaded it to our computers, there was more permanence. Sure, companies would close shop and manufacturers would discontinue software. Nevertheless, you still had access to software, even when the companies behind it terminated it. After all, it was saved on your computer and you still had the discs. This isn’t the situation with the cloud. When something is yanked from the cloud, it's gone.

Issues for Google

Consumers aren’t the only ones facing tough issues with the demise of Reader. Google does, too. As the Economist explains in a recent article, when Google introduces something new, it expects users to flock to it. But why should consumers do that if there’s the possibility that Google will just take away the applications? Getting rid of Reader may have made financial sense for Google. Nonetheless, it may cause consumers to hesitate before embracing the company’s next cloud-based service.

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